There are three parts to the Acholi "cleansing" ritual. The supplicant steps on an egg, "which symbolizes clean life not yet contaminated by sin," explains Sister Pauline. Then they jump over a farming tool, "which symbolizes you are to be productive." Finally, the sinner passes through the leaves of a pobo tree "whose slippery bark catches dirty things."
Sister Pauline says that so many of the LRA's soldiers have been "coming out of the bush" lately, there's a problem with the egg part of the ceremony. "We've had as many as 800 at a time," she says. "We can't give up 800 eggs, so they have to use the same egg."
The Christian part of the ceremony brings a priest, sometimes a Catholic bishop, who blesses the returnee and offers up a prayer of forgiveness. Christianity is widespread in Uganda, a former British colony where Catholic and Protestant missionaries built and still maintain some of the best schools. Practically all people in Northern Uganda have Christian names.
The simplicity of the reconciliation ceremonies belies the gravity of grief and fear that pervades Northern Uganda at the end of the second decade of the civil war between the government forces and the LRA.
In addition to living in Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps, tens of thousands of Acholi - mostly the children known as "night commuters" - parade every evening to various shelters in Gulu and Kitgum, leaving behind the IDP camps for safety from the LRA behind the walls of schools, hospitals and other secure institutions.
Other parts of the "cleansing" process for the returning LRA soldiers are more sophisticated than tribal ritual. Sister Pauline says her program follows up with counseling, not only for the returnees but for the communities to help them overcome the visceral desire for vengeance.
"We have discussions," she says. "We train paralegals, we show videos about reconciliation. We must have this to help with reconciliation, so the returnees will not feel like returning to the bush."
Speaking through an interpreter, Torac, who at 28 is older than most of the returnees, said that when he returned home, "I was traumatized. I could not sleep. I wasn't used to sleeping in an enclosed area.
"The elders told me I should go through the cleansing ceremony and I did that. A goat was slaughtered for a feast after the ceremony. After this, I felt released. I started going back to church. I sing in the choir. I am married now with two children. I live in peace."
What the people of Northern Uganda want is peace, an end to the war that has destroyed their homes and their livelihoods and led to the abduction of their children and their transformation into killers.
The Museveni government has contact with Kony through intermediaries, and the hope still exists that some day he will give up the battle. If he were to be found and killed, the larger war might end, but thousands of his entrenched followers, who have reaped profit and power from the war, would somehow have to be persuaded that they could re-integrate into their communities.
The tribal custom of forgiveness and all the reconciliation apparatus that accompanies it would be put to the ultimate test if that happens.
G. Jefferson Price III is a former foreign correspondent and editor at The Sun who has been traveling on behalf of Catholic Relief Services.